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This Day in History

World History

Friday, July 18, 0064. :   The Great Fire of Rome is started, ultimately destroying two-thirds of the city.

     The Great Fire of Rome broke out on 18 July AD 64 in the merchant district of the city, near the Circus Maximus, Rome's huge chariot stadium. Because of the strong summer winds, the fire quickly spread. It burned for six days and seven nights, then reignited and burned for another three days. In that time, the fire destroyed two-thirds of the city, including the 800-year-old Temple of Jupiter Stator and the Atrium Vestae, the hearth of the Vestal Virgins.

The Emperor Nero was blamed for his inaction, and there were even suggestions that he may have started it himself in order to bypass the senate and rebuild Rome to his liking. Evidence to support this theory includes the fact that the Domus Aurea, Nero's majestic series of villas and pavilions set upon a landscaped park and a man-made lake, was built in the wake of the fire. To deflect attention away from himself, Nero used the Christians as scapegoats. Thus began the earliest persecutions of Christians in Rome, action which included feeding them to the lions. The city was rebuilt after the fire, greater and more spectacular than before.

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